October 30, 1933 (Lahore, Punjab) – June 4, 2023 (Newton, Mass., USA)
Marguerite Helen Velte Hasbrouck was born in Lahore, Punjab (today Pakistan), where her father was a professor of English at Forman Christian College. When she was three years old, her parents brought her back to the U.S. in search of better treatment for tuberculosis and osteomyelitis in her legs. A year later, she was told she should give up hope of walking unaided. “That’s what you think”, she told the doctor, sticking out her tongue at him. She cast off her leg braces and crutches not long afterward, became a strong walker, swimmer, and paddler, and delighted in defying anyone who underestimated her strength, endurance — or wit.
Due to her childhood illnesses, she didn’t start formal schooling until eighth grade, but she graduated from high school at sixteen and earned a degree in comparative government and religion at Barnard College. “I thought of being a lawyer”, she said decades later, “but I was timid, and law school wasn’t what women did.”
Marguerite raised three children – “each very different, and each of whom I helped to be their different selves”, she would say proudly – and worked at a variety of administrative, editorial, and legal jobs including at Wellesley College, where her role included representing the college to the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce, and later as editor of a computer industry trade journal. As co-chair of the Bates School PTA, Marguerite co-founded the Bates Pumpkin Festival, which became an annual town institution that has continued for more than fifty years. After getting involved in Wellesley town politics through the League of Women Voters, she served as an elected member of the Town Meeting and the School Committee and an appointed member of the Advisory Committee.
In 1987, as administrator of the Arlington Street Church in Boston, she testified at a Congressional hearing on break-ins at churches that offered sanctuary to refugees from U.S. wars in Central America. She spent the last decade before her retirement as a paralegal at the Nature Conservancy, where she took special joy in being able to help protect the place she felt most at home, Lake George in the Adirondacks. But she most wanted to be thought of as a writer and a musician. She played organ and piano, sang, and served on the board of the Old West Organ Society.
Marguerite was a member of the Wellesley Friends Meeting and a regular attender for almost thirty years of the Friends Meeting at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk, which she had helped organize in response to a request from one of the incarcerated men. She was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, facilitated Alternatives to Violence Project workshops at prisons throughout New England, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Massachusetts Department of Correction for her volunteer work.
Marguerite was active in Quaker witness for peace and justice, including as clerk of several committees of the Wellesley Friends Meeting and the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, as a contributor to Peacework magazine and a volunteer at the New England office of the American Friends Service Committee, and as a member of AFSC’s national board of directors.
As a legal worker, Marguerite served on the board of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and worked as a volunteer with the NLG Military Law Task Force and the GI Rights Hotline.
Marguerite is survived by her partner of more than 30 years, Jim Casteris (P.O. Box 783, Winterport, ME 04496) and his family; son Robert Hasbrouck of Boxborough, MA; daughter Dorothy McDonald and son-in-law Bob McDonald of Sudbury, MA; son Edward Hasbrouck and daughter-in-law Ruth Radetsky of San Francisco, CA; grandson Kyle A. H. McDonald of Concord, NH; sister Lois Carstens of West Brandywine, PA; and many friends.
A concert and memorial meeting in the manner of Friends (Quakers) will be held under the care of the Wellesley Friends Meeting in hybrid format, in person in Wellesley and online, on Sunday, 5 November 2023. All are welcome.
Donations in Marguerite’s memory may be made to AFSC.